Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Wednesday that he will go up for re-election March 18, The Associated Press reports.
Putin has effectively been in power since 2000, serving as either president or prime minister. With an approval rating above 80 percent, he is expected to cruise to another victory. Putin is eligible to serve until 2024.
Putin’s main opponent, Alexei Navalny, is ineligible to run due to a five-year suspended embezzlement sentence. (RELATED: Russian Opposition Leader Banned From Running Against Putin)
Navalny and his business partner allegedly misappropriated around $500,000 worth of lumber from a state-owned company, according to a 2013 ruling. Navalny claims the case was fabricated to stop him from advancing his political career.
Navalny received his third jail sentence of the year in October for attempting to organize a rally outside Moscow.
“20 days in jail. Old man Putin got so scared of our rallies in the regions and decided to make himself a little present for himself for his birthday,” Navalny said in a tweet after receiving his sentence.
Television host Ksenia Sobchak announced her intentions to challenge Putin in October. (RELATED: ‘Russia’s Paris Hilton’ Goes Up Against Putin In Presidential Election)
Sobchak is a socialite described as “Russia’s Paris Hilton.” She is the daughter of Anatoly Sobchak, the former mayor of St. Petersburg, who picked Putin as his deputy in the 1990s.
Ksenia Sobchak said she wants a different Russia that moves closer to Europe if she wins the election.
“Over the past 17 years a whole new generation has grown up that wants to see a different Russia that is civilized and European,” she said in an interview on Russia’s TV Rain after announcing her campaign, The Guardian reports.
Sobchak’s father has been described as a political mentor to Putin. Russian media have previously reported that the candidacy was planned to steal votes from other opposition candidates.
“This is a lie,” Sobchak said, according to The Guardian. “I have not had any direct or indirect contact with the presidential administration about this. I don’t need their blessings, I can decide what to do for myself.”
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